Strategic Housing Scheme yields poor results

Shauna Power

Image Credit: Sonja Tutty

The[/dropcap] Government’s temporary Strategic Housing Development(SHD) scheme, that fast-tracks large scale developments, is currently under review and expected to be extended until 2021.

The scheme which was implemented in July 2017, means instead of applying to their local authority, applications for large scale developments can be made directly through the An Bord Pleanála. The current scheme is due to expire at the end of 2019 but the planned extension of the scheme until 2021 is an attempt to encourage further construction.

Speaking to the Daíl in September, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said, ‘changes will be made’ after being confronted about the efficiency of the scheme.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett described it as ‘Nothing more than a licence for property speculators to speculate, to hoard land, to flip land and to print money’. He was referring to the fact that land is more expensive when granted planning permission and with no obligation to build as part of the scheme, there are concerns about the scheme being used to increase property values.

Fianna Faíl leader Micheál Martin, who originally backed the scheme in 2017, said, ‘We should go back on the decision and revert to the local authority model’.

Under the scheme An Bord Pleanála are required to hold pre-application meetings with developers and local authorities for up to nine weeks, before an application can be submitted. The board then has up to 16 weeks to decide whether to grant permission.

The scheme was originally introduced to motivate the construction of large-scale housing projects, with developments of more than 100 housing units or 200 student beds submitted directly through an Bord Pleanála to speed up the planning process.

However, despite there being 100 applications submitted under the scheme, construction has commenced on just 23 of the approved projects. For those projects started, they are at the earliest stage of construction and not expected to be completed until 2022.

The maximum fee which previously could be charged by a local authority to process and application previously was €38,000, while fees under the current scheme can reach up to €80,000.

Currently, a review group is assessing the efficiency of the SHD scheme and are due to report back to Murphy shortly. Murphy, who is thought to be in favour of the extension, will then report his conclusions back to the Oireachtas before the end of October.

Shauna Power

Image Credit: Sonja Tutty